There’s a popular thought going around certain horror circles that the best horror movies have come out in the past couple of years. It’s a difficult position to argue against when we look at just a few of the incredible horror movies that have come out. Get Out, Hereditary, Us, The Witch, A Quiet Place, and The Babadook, just to name a few, have changed how we think about horror movies.
How soon we forget one year, not several years, saw the release of some classic horror movies. 1987 saw the release of Alan Parker’s Angel Heart, Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark, Joel Schumacher’s The Lost Boys, Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead II, John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness, and Clive Barker’s Hellraiser.
Hellraiser came out at a time when horror movies were still living in the shadow of the slasher movies of the early 80s. By 1987 there were already five sequels to Friday the 13th with one to follow the next year. Halloween had already spawned two sequels. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors was released in February of the same year. Slasher movies were far from being dead when Hellraiser was released.
Hellraiser was something different from the rest of the 80’s horror club. Friday the 13th had Jason with his hockey mask and machete hunting barely clothed women through the woods. Halloween had Michael with his mask and perpetual hard on for Laurie Strode and A Nightmare on Elm Street had Freddie with his knife fingers killing sleeping teenagers. Hellraiser had the Cenobites.
PINHEAD AND THE CENOBITES
In the world of horror movies it would be easy to classify the Cenobites as demons. It would suit our inherent need to classify things. Except the Cenobites aren’t demons. As Pinhead tells Kristy the Cenobites are “explorers in the further regions of experience. Demons to some, angels to others.” Basically, the Cenobites are whatever you need them to be. For Frank, the Cenobites were pain.
Frank (Sean Chapman) was meant to meet the Cenobites because he was destined to possess Lemarchand’s Box. The man he buys the box from tells Frank it was always his box. Although we don’t learn the name of the box in the first Hellraiser movie we soon learn it’s something more than a normal box. The box opens “doors to the pleasures of Heaven or Hell.” Does the box opens the gates to Hell, another universe, or an entire alternate reality of existence?
Pinhead has become a horror icon in the years since the movie was released. He, or it, was something fresh in the 80s. He wasn’t a vampire or a serial killer. Dressed in black with pins (nails) coming out of his head, hence his name, Pinhead was the de facto leader of the Cenobites. When Pinhead enters the movie all hell breaks lose for Kristy (Ashley Laurence).
Kristy accidentally opens the box bringing Pinhead and the Cenobites into her world and her into theirs. He doesn’t care if it was an accident. When the box is open someone must pay. Except this confrontation between Kristy and Pinhead illustrates another big difference between Hellraiser and other horror movies.
Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers were mindless monsters. There was no bargaining with either one of them. The campers ran only to die. Laurie Strode has run from Michael in five different Halloween movies with two more coming in 2020 and 2021. Pinhead could be reasoned with and deals could be made. Kristy made a deal with Pinhead to return Frank. If she returned Frank she would be freed from the Cenobites. Kristy survived to reappear in two more Hellraiser movies.
HELLRAISER AND THE GREED GENERATION
The 80s was a decade of excess and booming bank accounts for the already rich. The elites seemed to have it all and they weren’t going to let anyone else have a slice of the pie. Everywhere you looked, from television to advertising, seemed to be cashing in on excess and privilege. Hellraiser was the perfect anti-Greed Generation movie.
The Cenobites feasted on greed and excess, but not in the ways the 1% would enjoy. Frank, who indulged in excessive sex, found the box while searching for more. What he had, like the Baby Boomers of the 80s, was not enough. He wanted more. For his search he found the Cenobites. The Cenobites were no angels to Frank. His excessiveness literally tor him apart. Greed, to the Cenobites, can and does equal death or eternal pain and suffering. Greed, it seems, is not good.
Arrow Video has packed a lot of extras on their recent release of Hellraiser. Most of these extras have been featured on other releases of the movie. You could hunt down copies of out of press Blu-rays and pay a premium price. Arrow Video’s new release is reasonable priced.
The first think you will notice is the quality of the picture. No more grainy video Hellraiser fans have had to suffer through in the past. The movie pops off the screen thanks to the 2K restoration and 1080p presentation. The restored sound makes the music even more horrific.
Leviathan: The Story of Hellraiser: This is the same documentary that has been featured on Shudder for months. Now it’s on physical media with a nice edition of the movie. (Full Disclosure: I had not seen the documentary before writing my thoughts on Pinhead and the Cenobites)
Being Frank: Sean Chapman on Hellraiser: A nice documentary with actor Sean Chapman (Frank) talking about his career and his experience on Hellraiser.
Soundtrack Hell: The Story of the Abandoned Coil Score: Not a lot of love is given to scores on bonus matierals. Soundtrack Hell is the story how Stephen Thrower and Coil were fired from doing the score to the movie.
Hellraiser: Resurrection: A much older shaky camera featureette with Clive Barker talking about how the Hellraiser movie came into being. Clive Barker is sitting in dark room surrounded by candles. It’s as cheesy as it sounds. There’s some nice behind the scenes story from Barker, Ashley Laurence, and Doug Bradley.
Under the Skin: Doug Bradley on Hellraiser: An older documentary with Doug Bradley who played Pinhead. It’s interesting to hear his experiences playing the lead Cenobite and the affects the character had on him.